Banzai & Miyamoto Montreal Bento

Yesterday I finally stopped in to Banzai and Miyamoto in Westmount/NDG, Montreal. I was hoping for a lot when I went to them seeing as all the forums say to go there if you want to find bento in Montreal. I ended up being dissapointed at both of their selections of bento, but I did make some purchases.

First I went to Banzai which is on boul Decarie and rue Sherbrooke Ouest (2120 boulevard Decarie, Montreal, H4A 3J3, t: 514.484.4529) right beside the Play it Again Sports. It looks like it is going to be small from the outside but the inside is rather huge. On the right I found a number of kitchen supplies including frying pans, tea sets, accessories, etc, and Bento! Their selection was rather limited however. They sell Lock&Lock, and similar brands for 40$-60$ (including a HUGE Lock&Lock for picnic/family size). The also sell a lot of the children PORORO bento and cups, etc. However, they also had another bento that came in either pink or blue, one tier, with build in separation, that featured either an otter or dolphin stencil on it for $2.99! So at that price (In Montreal?!) I couldn’t resist, and purchased the pink one. I did see that the blue dolphin one was also priced at 6.99$ but the size didn’t seem to be any different so I don’t know what that was about. The lid is loose so you would have to have an elastic band to keep it secure because you can easily lift of the lid. But for 2.99$ how could you say no? The dolphin one was blue with darker blue dolphins painted on. I didn’t think it was that cute, but if your are a dolphin person maybe you would like it. I didn’t see any bento accessories at all, and when I asked the gentleman working didn’t know what I was referring to. I also found, for the first time ever, chopsticks with the Lucky Cat image on them(!!) for 2.99$.  When I got them out of the package they have a rough texture to them as well. I wish I ended up buying another set. I also found some great bamboo (maybe?) food picks for 1.99$ that are perhaps too long for a bento but would look really pretty at a dinner party. You can see those in the very first image. Banzai also had a massive selection of fresh, frozen and packaged foods, and overall was very inexpensive on everything. I definitely suggest people to visit if they are in the area, but I would say that (at least when I went), their bento selection was nothing special.

Then I walked over to Miyamoto on Victoria Ave just off of rue Sherbrooke Ouest, which is small, but has a beautiful selection of tea/cooking sets in the back (all very pricey however). I searched all the store shelves looking for bento or bento accessories and was about to leave when, near the counter, I saw a small shelf with, among books, tea sets, etc, were two bento boxes, one long and narrow and one round and more fat, both one tier, with accompanying elastic band, for 25$ each (both were black with a red/white pattern on the lid). They looked good quality (better than my otter bento), but were too pricey for me. I didn’t make any purchases in Miyamoto but it was good to at least see what they had. Lots of food and kitchenware but not enough bento. If your in the area stop by an look, at least for their neat kitchenware.

So to date, I have accumulated five bento boxes (4 in the last week :P). My first was the blue Urara dragonfly bento that I purchased off of ebay, then I purchased the three Glit&Brillia hot pink and green bento (as well as hot dog cutter) at J-Town mall in GTA Toronto, and finally the otter bento from Banzai. Check out my previous posts to find out more about the other places I have found bento and my experience with them. Good luck with your Hunt!

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J-TOWN Toronto Bento!

This past week I went to Ontario and on the way to my destination I HAD to stop at J-Town, a Japanese mall in the greater Toronto area. I heard about this area through forums, and I finally got the chance to go. I anticipated to find a mall similar to those in Toronto’s Chinatown, but J-town is a little different. (At any point in this blog you can click in the image to enlarge, and consult the gallery below for more pictures).

The mall has a beautiful entrance and to the left you will find a store dedicated to beauty products. To the right was the entrance to another wing of the building in which all the stores share one open space. Right as you enter you will find the store Silk to your left, this is the store which I found a bunch of great, CHEAP bento! Before moving further on bento, I will say that silk had a wide variety of many kitchen items, kawaii school supplies, and clothing articles. All items were very well priced. The rest of the all was a little difficult to tell where one store ends and another begins, but they have a bakery, grocery area, butcher, etc. Check out their website at: www.jtown.ca

The first thing I grabbed at Silk was the most adorable Totoro keychain (by now I knew I was in for a good day). For $4.50 you could buy Totoro   with little bells in grey, off-white, red, or light blue. All the totoro have a little green bow painted on their head. They had other charms available as well.

Moving to the next aisle I was faced with a whole shelf unit full of Bento! I was startled when I saw they were all less than 5$. Starting from the right, the round clear containers were the cheapest at $2.95; the green/yellow/white poka-dot bento $4.50 and microwave safe; then they had a whole variety of the brand Natural Lunch Time with chopstick&cutlery set at $4.20, a package of 3 miniature bento for $3.50, and the bigger bento ranging from $4.25 to $4.50. Moving still to the left they carried the brightly coloured brand Glit & Brillia where one tier bento were $4.20, and two-tiered at $4.50. The also sold a rice ball box (origini bento) that is 3 tiered but can be made into a single tier for $4.50 (pictures below). They also sold egg molds which came in packages of 2 or 3, for $3.95 to $4.20 a package. These containers varied from fish/car molds as seen below, to stars/flowers/hearts, and even to Quail eggs! In addition to the egg molds, they sold other bento accessories such as the Crab-shaped hotdog cutter which was sold for $2.95, sauce containers shaped including the fish/pig ones for $2.95;  seaweed shape cutter for $3.95; and Glit & Brillia matching chopsticks with case for $3.20.

The store even had more bento just around another corner! After looking at this whole aisle, I found another corner of the store that had plastic lacquer-looking bento in either red or black for $4.25-$4.50. These had really loose fitting lids so I did not purchase any of them, but they came in a variety of sizes.

All of the bento were made in Japan and the majority were Microwave safe. I walked out of there having spent 23$ and wishing I purchased even more.

Ultimately these were my purchases: a pink 1 tier Glit & Brillia, a 2 tier G&B, a 3 tier rice ball and side dish bento, the crab-shaped hot dog cutter, and a Totoro cellphone charm. Out of the packaging they look like this:

The lids of the 2 tier are very insecure so I have to get an elastic band for it before using. I highly recommend stopping in to J-Town and specifically the store SILK, even if you aren’t into bento, because the whole area has so many things and really great looking food! Now if you are bento obsessive like me, these are great options to help you build your collection like me, or if you have kids and don’t want to risk spending 25$ that will end up in the school  lost & found 5 years later.

Again, check out www.jtown.ca for more information location and what all they have to offer. It was 10-15 minutes off the Highway 401 for us to get to by car so it is well worth a quick visit!

Japanese Festival Recap and More Bento!

Today was the 2011 Montreal Japanese Festival (Matsuri). It was the first time I had ever attended the event and it was wonderful! Everyone looked absolutely amazing in their yukata’s, there was wonderful music, delicious looking food (with long lines! haha), and a whole section dedicated for kids. It was really the place to be today.

The highlight of my visit that I am excited to share, is the Collection du Japon booth, with all of their Bento!!!!!!! I had no idea this store had this many types of bento, and even GIANT bento used for picnics! All of the bento pretty well started at 30$ which at first I thought was too expensive, but they are quality bento that are microwave safe and if I were to order something similar on Ebay I would be paying that price anyways, at least this way I would be supporting a local business. They also had matching chopsticks and the material wraps for the bento, they had masks, and anime pins (3$), beautiful yukatas, books … everything! The owner is a wonderful woman as well and I really encourage everyone to check out her store, because I am sure you will find something you love there. I really wanted to buy her whole booth.

Here are the pictures I took of the bento’s Collection du Japon had. I was also told by a lovely girl who was working the booth that the owner can also order a bento she may not have. (click on all photos for larger image)


These bentos are almost all microwaveable safe, and very heavy/durable looking. Definitely not the flimsy cheap boxes. They vary in price but the majority start at 30$ and range upward. The bento on the very bottom row even come with a Furoshiki material wrap!


I was told these huge bento (that I didn’t know existed!) are used more for picnics, they sold for 50$ and 55$. They have absolutely went on my Christmas list.


I was so excited when the girl behind the booth brought these out for me to take photos of as well! I was so surprised they had them, I never thought I would be able to find these in Montreal! Ultimately I was so excited about this booth and to be able to share it with fellow Montreal Bento Lovers. Yes, the price is more than I would prefer to spend, but they really are quality bento boxes that you will have for a long time. I am definitely going to start saving specifically for a couple of these (including the gigantic one!). And if you can’t afford one of these bentos, perhaps you could start by buying one of their matching chopsticks with the case instead (16$).


Here are some other photos of the event. There was lots I did not take pictures of though. If you did not go this year, make sure you put a reminder in your calender for next year, it is definitely a great event for any age.

Panda Love: bento, jewelry, and more

I don’t know if its their stark contrasting colours, their perfectly shaped spots, their rolly-polly bodies, or die-of-cuteness mannerisms, but Pandas are pretty much perfect. This love even spills out to the world of Bento, where their are countless containers and food designs to mimic these Asian bears. In this post I really just want to share some images I have collected of Panda Bento boxes and ideas, and later for more miscellaneous panda goodies. I hope you enjoy!

Panda Bento Boxes
I have to admit, there are some seriously fun panda bento boxes out there (none in Montreal it seem!!! :S ) but nevertheless some fun boxes. This first bento is a design I have not seen elsewhere and if I remember correctly I found it on ebay (got to love that ebay). My absolute favorite bento I have found so far can be seen below. It is simple, not too cartoonish, just the perfect bento box design. And he is even holding an origini! That seems to be the problem with most Panda bento, they are all a bit too childish, and not very translatable to all-ages. In the gallery below I have included all the Panda bento boxes I have come across and enjoyed. If we want to talk about accessories, probably the perfect panda bento accessory is the widely available Panda food picks (see image to the left). These picks really do look adorable in a bento lunch as you can see in the gallery below. You can get these picks all over the internet for about 6$ (with or without shipping depending on the site).

Random Panda
Earlier today I found one of the neatest panda accessories I may have ever seen. Featured on the following website: http://technabob.com/blog/2011/07/11/panda-darake-chopstick-practice/ , for about 25$ you can have a pile of rolly-polly pandas that will help you practice your chopstick skills (lord knows I need it!). The package comes with 12 pandas, a pair of chopsticks, and a small tire and table in order to balance the pandas with. I think it is just the cutest accessory and potentially the cutest distraction someone needs while working hard on a school/business project haha. I also found these equally cute chopstick rests that keep your used chopsticks off the table. Found here: http://item.rakuten.co.jp/pas2/c/0000000237/, the website also offers a number of similar items including pandas with outfits on, and donuts! These really would be the perfect accessory for a dinner gathering!

Panda Jewelry
If you have read my earlier blogs you may get the idea that I am a sucker for a cute key chain or cell phone charm (despite the fact I don’t own a cell phone). It is hard to surf around and find nice looking panda charms that aren’t the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) logo, however if you look hard enough you may be sure to find some cute charms/ jewelry/beads/etc that are the perfect panda–not too cartoonish, not a Hello Kitty dressed up in a panda suit, and not a company logo. I am still looking for my perfect panda charm(s), but for now I still gathering in inspiration.

I hope this post has found you some inspiration to feed your own panda obsessions and collections, and perhaps to make your bento lunches a little more black and white 😉 . Be sure to check out the gallery below for all sorts of Panda goodies.


Ottawa Bento

Two weeks ago I went to Ottawa with family to go site-seeing. It was the first time I had visited the Parliament building and surrounding area, and though the weather was excruciatingly humid/hot, it was a wonderful visit.

The trip to Ottawa also offered the opportunity to briefly hunt for bento boxes and indeed I did find. Inside Ottawa’s small Chinatown is the store Global Homeware and Giftware (708 Summerset Street West, Ottawa) that was a treasure chest of fun (a bit expensive) things. From Lucky Cat statues; key/cellphone chains; Ghiblie stuffies; bags; tea sets; Bento boxes;…really everything! It was a great store, and I was happy to see it was full of Ghiblie goodies including a bag I have been having a hard time to find (see right) for 30$. I ended up only walking out with a cell phone charm for my keys (7$-yes more than I wanted to spend) because everything else was a little bit more then I wanted to spend at that time. Bento boxes ranged in price but started at about 12$, and were more youth oriented including Micky Mouse/ Mini Mouse, and of course Hello Kitty. However the majority were of little cats/ducks that kind of thing. Lucky Cat figures were pretty cute and ranged from 6$-15$ which was a little too pricey for their size which was rather small.

Ultimately I loved the store, but I found the store a bit costly, and later in Toronto I found that same keychain for $3. Regardless of their prices I still suggest you visit this store when in Ottawa. It is packed full of goodies of all kinds, and there is sure to be something for everyone.

In 2 weeks it is Montreal’s Japanese Festival, Matsuri Japon!!! Be sure to come out and enjoy the community and culture and hopefully good weather. For more information visit their website at http://festivaljapon.com/. I will be sure to make a post on my experience at the festival so be sure to visit my blog again.

 

Montreal Japanese Festival 2011: My love affair continues

If you have read my previous posts you may be picking up on my current love affair with Japanese culture. Well didn’t it make my day when my friend sent me the link for this years Montreal Japanese festival (MATSURI de Montréal). Saturday August 13th will launch this year’s festival at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre of Montreal, (see website for details: http://festivaljapon.com/). While last year I missed it by a hair, this year I am eager to see all of the events. The event is from 12:30pm – 9:30pm, so try to come out and show some support. Perhaps we can even encourage a few booths to spread the word of bringing more Bento to Montreal! Update: I have also been informed that the store Collection du Japon will have a stand at Matsuri, so make sure to check them out and perhaps inquire about their bento boxes!

My newest great obsession has been the discovery of Edamame! ooOOoo what a discovery it was. Edamame is soybeans in their pod, boiled and salted. I first tasted these sweet jems at Dowtown Montreal’s Japanese restaurant KAZU (4$ for a big bowl of them), which if you haven’t experienced it yet, go now….no, stop reading and go NOW. It almost always has a long line up but the wait is so worth it (I suggest the delicious teriyaki chicken burger as well, or the pork neck (bring wet naps!)). Back to the soybeans, I should first say that I grew up on a farm that grew soybeans and corn, and yet we never had a meal with soybeans, and definitely not these salty green snacks– how I was missing out! Anyway, I went to the Korean grocery store and for $1.99 I picked up a relatively big bag of frozen soybeans in the pod (you can also buy them pod-less). Literally all that is involved is boiling water, beans, salt, and 5 minutes and you have the best salty snack. Of course they did not end up exactly like Kazu’s (nothing could), but they are not my the new food staple for my freezer.

So that is it for now, I hope you come out to the Montreal Japanese festival in August, and if you haven’t yet, I hope you get down to Kazu. Another post is coming soon about me recent obsession…the Beckoning Cat (a.k.a: lucky cat, fortune cat), and my next week my Bento hunt extends to Ontario. Until then :)!

Montreal Chinatown: A Hunt for Bento

Today was the first day of Montreal Chinatown’s sidewalk sale for June (they are held every month in the summer). Therefore, I found it the perfect excuse to go Bento hunting, and perhaps find some Ghibli items along the way. Because Montreal does not have a huge Japanese population, it is difficult to find Japanese products, but Chinatown allows you to get somewhat close to what you are looking for. While my search for Bento came up almost entirely empty, I did find some other trinkets I would like to share.

The first place I stopped was at Pop Asie, a store right on rue St. Laurent and rue René Levesque. If it is difficult to see in the picture, it is the store on the second floor, with the small entrance to the right of “Aliko”. This store is full of manga and anime stuff, but not solely. The store ranges from CDs & DVDs & books, to comics and posters, to stuffed animals, to key chains and pins. There was even a section of swords (though that’s not my thing). What was great about this store was it had a small section dedicated to my beloved Totoro! And the prices weren’t terrible either. Plush Key chains started at $3, I bought a pin for $3.50, they had hats, purses, and slippers, as well as big stuffed animals of both Totoro and the Cat Bus. Prices for the clothes and stuffies ranged from about $12 – $35. (They had a Totoro plushie that came with the tree trunk home he fits into for $34.99). Below is the Totoro pin I purchased. They sold Pins at 1 for $3.50, or 3 for $10. They even had Cardcaptor Sakura pins(!!) but I wasn’t ready to spend $10 on pins (I would have for key chains though! haha). I recommend this store, and it is probably the cheapest place (and one of the only places) to find Totoro paraphernalia in Montreal. There was another store that sold lots of small plastic Totoro cell phone charms (for $7), tuques, wallets, and slippers but it was all priced far higher then I was willing to spend.

The next store I looked into was Tam Nam just a few doors down from Pop Asie. This was a store I had read about having Bento boxes, and it ended up being the only place where I found them. They had two, quite large, plastic Bentos, (I believe they were two tiered) for $12. If you are looking for a big Bento, then these would be great, but I wasn’t attracted to the simple design of them (red or yellow, with small poka-dots on the top). They also had a variety of rice molds and onigiri molds for $4.50 for packs of three. What I liked the best however was their selection of beautiful and inexpensive chopsticks. They even had beautiful metal ones with a print on the top for $1.99 (I wish now that I ended up buying a set, but I just never use chopsticks). They also had ADORABLE chopsticks with a removable rubber holder in the shape of a boy or girl. They were being sold for $2.50 and everywhere else I found them in Chinatown were being sold for $4 to $6.

Finally, for all those who love Graveyard of Fireflies, I found the tin with candy that is featured in the movie, at a small convenience store/food store further down rue St. Laurent called Uni, right on the corner of rue de la Gauchetière O. Sold for about $4.50 I was shocked when I saw it. They also sell a  number of cell phone charms ($3 or $5, I forget) and anime and Nintendo figures. As well they also sell the Japanese pop Ramune for $2.99. If you haven’t had the chance to try this drink yet, go out and  try it. The bottle is half the fun.

While I did venture through all of Chinatown- both booths and stores– I was only able to find things of interest at the stores mentioned above. However it was nice to just be there. If you get a chance, go enjoy the Montreal Chinatown’s sidewalk sale sometime this summer: June 22 to June 26, July 20 to July 24, August 17 to August 24 (source: http://montreal.about.com/od/shopping/a/vente_trottoir_montreal_sidewalk_sales_street_fairs.htm)!